Monday, December 31, 2012

Top 5 Apps From a 9 Year Old's Perspective

So of course because I asked my 6 year old, I had to ask my nine year old for his favorite apps.  His picks are even LESS educational.... must be all that Christmas sugar corrupting his brain!

Clash Of Clans - Clash of Clans is an epic combat strategy game.  In this game you build a village by collecting money and elixer.  The game has the ability to play online, however, my son uses it himself and does not join with others players.
iPhone Screenshot 1

Hay Day - You start by building a farm.  You then raise your animals and buy and sell the products you need to run a farm!
iPhone Screenshot 1

Minecraft -  I honestly have no idea what this game is even about, when I asked my son he replied by saying "I don't really know how to explain it mom!"  When you read the reviews it says Minecraft is about placing blocks to build things and going on adventures. hmmmm..... still leaves me wondering!  So when I googled it, the response I got was "Minecraft is a sandbox game which allows players to build constructions out of textured cubes in a 3D world.  At night monsters come out, make sure to build a shelter before that happens."  It is an expensive app $6.99, but my son spends hours in this virtual sandbox!

iPhone Screenshot 1

Monster Life - Raise, train and fight along with the cutest and fiercest monsters ever and embark on a thrilling adventure to save the world of Numa! 

iPhone Screenshot 2

Skylanders Battlegrounds - Skylanders is a video game craze that has now found its place in the iworld!  Skylanders Battlegrounds is an action packed adventure where you can play with two Skylanders at the same time. Unlock new powers and weapons to help you in the battle against Kaos and his warlords.  You can connect a portal using bluetooth technology or use the codes that come with your skylander's characters and enter them to unlock your skylander collection.  This is also a $6.99 app that has been on sale for $4.99 for the last month.

iPhone Screenshot 3

So after all this battling and creating fictional worlds I pushed him to tell me something educational, he came up with Waldo... lol!

Waldo - Like the famous book.... you search for Waldo through the app.  There is a free lite version and the full version that my son loves is $1.99!

Where’s Waldo? The Fantastic Journey is the ultimate search and find adventure for all ages, as players scour the virtual globe in search of Waldo and his friends Wizard Whitebeard, Wenda and Woof, and Waldo foe, Odlaw. In addition, there are hundreds of cleverly camouflaged items to find within the 12 different magical worlds. 

iPhone Screenshot 5

I guess when vacation is over and we are all back in "school mode", I'll have to ask "my firsties" what their top 5 apps are!

Top 5 of 2012 From a 6 Year old's Perspective

So I asked my own 6 year old what her favorite apps of 2012 were.  Keep in mind we are on Christmas vacation and her brain is trapped in a sugar fog with visions of academic apps far from her head!

This was her response:

1. Perfect Tree - We love to play this one in chain mode, always striving for the longest chain.  I think we got 26 as our highest.  It is a bit of a mindless game but I must admit I am addicted too! I justify it by thinking you also have to think while you play and we take turns back and forth.  There is a free version that gets you 15 levels, by then you are hooked though and want the $2.99 upgrade for all 200 levels.  I know we did!  There are also many games just like this one with other themes... Fishdom being one of them.
iPad Screenshot 1

2.  Curious Zoo - We got his one for free on one of those free app days!  Then we purchased the other zoo areas for 99 cents each which ends up costing about $5.  George gets the keys to a zoo.  He goes in and feeds and washes the animals.  You learn a bit about animals and have a little fun.  I like the game, not sure if its worth the money in my opinion, maybe for preschoolers it is!  Keep your eyes peeled for freebies with this one.
iPad Screenshot 2

Pet Hotel - This is one of those apps like farmville on Facebook.  You build a hotel and look after the animals that come to stay in it. You raise the babies, party with the pets and learn about animal breeds.  It's free but there are in app purchases of coins and food etc.  I just shut off the option of in app purchases and she has to wait to get the coins by performing tasks etc in the hotel.
 iPhone Screenshot 2

Cookie Doodle - This fun educational app allows you to make cookies without the mess.  There are tons of options and its excellent fine motor practice.  The app is 99 cents and was rated 2011 parents choice of the year app!  You follow recipes, bakes and decorate.  There are over 200 cookie cutters - hours of fun!
iPhone Screenshot 5

Magnetic ABC - This app comes with about 10 other in app purchases allowing you to buy other magnet themes to create stories etc.  There is also a lite version if you want to check it out.  The app is on sale today for 1.99.  We use it to practice spelling words and just to have some fun!
iPad Screenshot 3

So these were "my girls" picks!   Wishing you and "Appy New Year" !

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Pros and Cons of a Pod????

Okay so I have had a pod of Ipads in my classroom now since September.  The pod consists of 2 ipads which are mine and stay in my room and 3 ipads that are the "actual school pod" that I share with a grade two classroom.  I get the ipads in the afternoons and she gets them in the morning.  They stay in my class charging overnight and students deliver of pick up the ipads each day.


  • 5 ipads allows for a literacy or math center - I use them during my guided reading time.
  • I teach how to use all the new apps in my monthly folder at the beginning of the month so when kids are working and I allow for free app choice, they know how to use them.
  • I set them all up the same and I generally dictate which app they are allowed to use.
  • It makes a great free time tool especially at the end of the day - free time playing math or spelling:)
  • I have set up profiles for each child, the ipads are color coded and they know which color to fin their profile on.  I can track their progress in some of the apps we use.
  • We've had the opportunity to read app books during guided reading time because we have enough ipads for each child - cool!

  • It is a lot of work!  
  • It takes time to update the folders each month and to keep the ipads all looking the same especially when the ipads are shared between 2 rooms.  Sharing between even more rooms could be a nightmare in my opinion.  I never seem to have the ipads when I have a spare so I am generally setting them up after school.  I must confess, its December 9 and the black ipad  STILL does not have a December folder on it:(
  • Getting all the same apps on the ipads also takes time.  I know there are setting to download onto all etc, but we have multiple ipads linked and if you turn that on, you never know what you will get (apparently that is changing in the near future anyway)
  •  Cleaning them
  • Keeping the them charged
Now some of those things might sound silly, and maybe they are but they certainly are some of the cons.  Do I still want a pod - you bet!  However, I am an apple user comfortable with the technology.  I began with just one ipad and learned the tricks.  I used it in my classroom and did a few cool interactive projects and taught the kids some skills.  Then I set up a schedule so they could each get a turn to "play" themselves.  After a year of that I felt ready for the pod.  My pod time is coming to an end in January.  And so now another con is clearing it all off.  Off  go the photos, the pictello books and projects, off go the drawings and likely even some of my primary apps (depends who gets it next).

My suggestions to the new pod users:
  • You have to teach how to use and respect the pod.  You are not wasting time if you take the time to do this.  Kids need to know how to carry them, how to turn them on and off, how to store them and put them back on a charger.  They need to know how to find the apps and to not bang on the screen. All of these things we take for granted, they must be taught.
  • Choose a time that you are going to use the pod and figure out a rotation so everyone eventually gets a turn.  Not all of mine used it everyday.
  • Choose one or two apps to focus on, teach them and go from there.  Use these apps to reinforce basic skills while having some fun (spelling city, math bingo, mathletics, monkey word school, monkey math, jungle bingo, letter school etc.)
  • Find a cool project that the whole class can do so they can collaborate and offer each other feed back.  there are some great ideas in some of my other posts and some of the blogs I link to.  (Pictello books, Story Creater, Image Chef, Voice Thread, Toontastic, Strip Designer, iMovie... to name a few) 
  • HAVE FUN!!!

Friday, December 7, 2012

My December Apps!

Seven days into December and I finally have my app folders ready on 4 of the 5 ipads in the pod!
Yup, a pod is a lot of work!

What have I got going on in December?  Some old faves hung around for another month and now that we finally know how to add I threw in a few exciting math newbies!

What's hung around?

Letter School
Teach Me Grade One
Teach Me Kindergarten
Spelling City

What's new?????

Monkey Word
iPhone Screenshot 2

I posted about this great find in early November I believe.  The kids were so excited to see it in the December work folder.  It works on Spelling and High Frequency words in all kinds of fun ways.  Definitely worth the $1.99 in my opinion!

Hungry Guppy
iPhone Screenshot 1

I have used the Hungry Fish app in the past which is for kids who know their addition facts.  This game is the precursor to that introducing numbers and joining sets of numbers.  It's $3.99.... a little pricey in the app world, but if your kiddos are into math they'll love it, especially when the fish gets bigger and bigger!

Meet Biscuit Book App
iPhone Screenshot 1

By December in Grade One most of my kiddos really see themselves as readers and are excited to read "other books" instead of our classroom pm book collection.  I always introduce them to Biscuit, they love this puppy and they love to take home my extensive collection of Biscuit books.  When I discovered there were all kinds of Biscuit book apps I was thrilled!  I was lucky enough to get this book for free, but it is now $2.99.  There are many more Biscuit titles ranging from 99 cents to $2.99.  You can see not only is it a book, it has coloring pages, a sticker collection, memory games and a puzzle!

Math Invaders Kindergarten

iPhone Screenshot 2

This app is loads of fun... well worth the $1.99!  It's like the old school video game where you are shooting at alien spaceships before they get to the ground.  I have the kindergarten and grade one versions of this app and find the kindergarten to be at a more appropriate level based on our Manitoba curriculum.  It begins with counting forward, then backwards and then basic addition.

Max Doodle
iPad Screenshot 1

We use Max Doodle to practice our spelling words.  It's an alternative to Doodle Buddy and is a fun interactive way to spell.  I have posted about both of these apps in the past, but have just put Max Doodle in our folder for the first time and the kids are THRILLED!

And since it is December I decided we needed some Christmas Apps too, but I made a special Christmas folder instead.......

Toca Christmas Hair
iPhone Screenshot 1
There is absolutely nothing educational about this at all but the kids think it is hilarious to give Santa a new style.  Last year I had a special needs child and this app was EXTREMELY calming for him.  Toca apps are a favorite in my house, unfortunately we have almost outgrown these preschool apps.

Talking Gingerbread

iPhone Screenshot 2
Again nothing educational, but you can dance and play music with the Gingerbread man and record your voice.  It's another freebie for a little Christmas fun!

Draw Santa
iPhone Screenshot 4

Learn to draw all sorts of Christmas characters, then color and select backgrounds!

How The Grinch Stole Christmas - app book

I blogged about this one already!

Jolly Jingle
iPhone Screenshot 1
This festive sing a long app is great for learning Christmas Carols.  We have yet to use this in our classroom but look forward to it:)

And that is all..... I am sure there are many more Christmas apps out there, let me know what you find that's worth while!

December is my last month with the pod, but guess what I am getting for my classroom....... 1 more ipad!  I almost have a pod of my own:)

Monday, December 3, 2012

How To Keep Kids On The App You Have Chosen!

How ironic that I would receive a text sending me to a blog post about using Guided Access on my ipad since just today we were talking about locking folders to keep kids where we want them to be!

I have not tried using Guided Access because in my class I have very little trouble keeping my kiddos on the app I have told them to use; however, last year I would have loved this option!

This blogger did a great job of explaining the option so I will just link you to her post and let you see for yourself.

If you try it out, let me know!  I'd love to hear your thoughts on it!

I got a "Wonderful Awful Idea"

The Grinch is a favorite in our house this year.  My 6 year old has watched the 30 minute cartoon at least 9 times since it's saved on our pvr, we've watched the full length movie and now we own the app!

For $4.99 you can own the electronic version on Dr. Seuss's classic How the Grinch Stole Christmas.  The app offers a few pretty cool features.

The coolest in my opinion is being able to set yourself as the narrator.  You can then read the book aloud and it will record your reading so next time you choose Read It To Me....... you can choose to listen to your version!  How cool would that be to have grandpa read the book for you!

The app also allows you to click on the pictures and it tells you the vocabulary of the objects in the picture.  You can turn sound effects on or off, and we all know how much Seuss loves his sound effects!  Of course like most book apps, you can choose autoplay, read it to me or read it myself.

iPhone Screenshot 1

For a little fun we also bought the Grinchmas app.  It is totally just for fun!  You get to be a mean Grinch or a merry Grinch and you fling snowballs or presents into chimneys.  It's a little tricky but it added to our love of the Grinch!

iPhone Screenshot 4


Sunday, November 11, 2012

Deleting Music

It never fails, whenever a new IS0 comes out my son's ipod does not have enough room left to update it.  Never again will I buy an 8G anything:)

We are always trying to decide what we can delete????  Today we decided to downsize his music library.  Or so we thought we would.  We tried everything to delete about 30 songs.  After 30 minutes of failure, we googled it!  I LOVE google!

We got a few answers... connect it to your itunes account on the computer and choose to manage the music library.  Of course itunes wanted us to update and that whole process SLOWED us down.  

But then we hit the jackpot!!!! 

1.  Open your music.
2.  Click on songs.
3. Slide your finger slowly along the song to the right and a red delete button appears|!
4.  Click it and you are done!!!!!!

How easy... and secretive is that?!  

Now you know:)  


Saturday, November 10, 2012

Monkey Word School Adventure

He's back............
that favorite little monkey that my kiddos love has a new game  Monkey Word School Adventure  It's an educational app for reading and writing.  There are spelling games, phonics games, word seaches and sight word reading games all intermixed.  While playing the games you earn creatures to store in your terrarium.  There are customizable settings and the difficulty increases as your child plays.  

The game is advertised for children ages 3 - 6, but in my opinion it is perfect to reinforce most grade one skills!  The games is priced at $1.99.

I can't wait to introduce it to my kiddos!
iPhone Screenshot 1

iPhone Screenshot 4

Thanks to Carrie for recommending it to me and you might want to check out the site that she follows Smart Apps for Kids.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Pictello Project part 2

About a month ago I posted about my pictello project which I thought turned out just great.  This morning I had a few spare minutes and played around with the program just a little bit more.

I was able to take the project and save it as a pdf.  That pdf is saved as book on my ibook shelf.  I then dicovered that I could email that pdf or print it as a paper copy.  Now of course when you do that you lose all the audio functions that you may have incorporated; however, having a printed copy of the book would be super exciting for some kids!  Not to mention I would love to add it to their portfolios.

My next steps......
We have created stories on 5 different ipads.  I would like to get all the stories onto all the ipads (or at least mine so when I give the pod back I still have them).  I would like kids to be able to read these stories in ibooks during read to self time.

I wanted to attach the pdf copy to this blog post but I just can't seem to figure out how..... maybe next time! Check out pictello, it's fun!

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Inspiring Students

Sometimes all it takes is a question.....

Why won't my ipod at home take a screen shot?  How do I delete my apps?  How do I make a folder?  These are the questions I have been asked lately by my little firsties.

How exciting!!!!!  This means they are using and exploring at home!  I had a few parents even come to parent's day and jokingly say... "Why did you teach about screen shots?  I have millions of photos on my phone now!"  I laughed and said "Did you know how to take one before?" and they admitted they are even learning from their children!

These questions have lead us to little mini lessons about using the ipad.  And to all the questions we have had the ah ha moment!  That's when I know I've got them... they can hardly wait to go home and use what they have learned!  Soon they will be teaching me:)


My November Apps

A new month means a new folder with some new apps and the return of some old favorites.

My system seems to be going well.  I have had only 2 students venture into the "off limit folders" and because I know my apps well, I quickly heard they were where they were not supposed to be and redirected their learning.  Everyone else is just very excited to use the apps in our monthly folders.

What's new this month?

Mathletics (what I've said about it previously)
 iPad Screenshot 3
If you have not yet got this free app - get it!  All the kids in our school have user names and passwords to access it.  It is excellent practice that meets our Manitoba Curriculum.

Spelling City - a class favorite from September.

  iPhone Screenshot 1
Another freebie that has word list personalized by ME!  Search my name "Christine Williams" to find the word lists.

Monster Squeeze

iPhone Screenshot 4
This app is $1.99.  I was lucky and got it for free.  The kids love it, but I don't think I would pay that price for it.  Watch for a sale instead.

Mo Willem's Pigeon App

iPhone Screenshot 2
For 4.99 we will have hours of fun with this app.  We will draw the pigeon, create our own stories and listen to each others stories.  It is kid friendly, easy to use.  Kids ALWAYS love it!

Doodle Buddy

iPhone Screenshot 2

It's free and it's FUN!  We have almost all had a turn using Doodle Buddy with our idress app project.  We have also learned how we can use Doodle Buddy to practice our spelling words.  I think this month we will be creating our own art work with Doodle Buddy.

This is my last month with the pod.  Not sure how I will live without it come December.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Sharing My Pins

I am addicted to pinning..... I admit it!  I pin every day!  I feel the need to check the popular, education and pinners I follow pages daily, sometimes more than once!  And I have to say some of my best lessons in the past year have come from my pinterest addiction!

If you are not a pinner, I suggest you jump aboard the pin train.  Word of caution:   Be prepared to be amazed and to lose many hours pinning!

I'll share my ipad pin board with you.

The pin I am excited to learn about is this one (once I get around to reading all the wonderful things I pin):

Customize Your Icons on Your iPad

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Halloween in the Tech Classroom

Before I was blessed with a pod of ipads, I embraced my pod of "slow going" desk tops.    We now have just 1 slow going desk top in our classroom.  We still use all kinds of great sites during our lab time and I post them on our class wiki for the kids to explore at home.  Check out this great link to awesome Halloween games on line. (It is one of my most favorite tech blogs)

And here are a few Halloween apps (just for fun)........

Abbey Halloween Math - free
iPad Screenshot 1

Halloween counting and words - free
iPad Screenshot 3
Halloween Sticker book - free
iPhone Screenshot 1
Carve a pumpkin - free
iPhone Screenshot 3

H"appy" Halloween!

What about the money, money, money?

Today I went to SAGE in Flin Flon (Special Area Groups in Education conferences).  My session was titled Ipads in the Classroom.

Today's session was enlightening to the fact that from kindergarten to grade 12 most of us would like to use ipads.  Some of us are lucky enough to have pods of them in our classrooms.  Some of us are struggling to use just one.  Others are successfully using one as a teaching tool and are ready to make the transition to a pod so the kids can get their hands on them.  And then some of us are still just a little bit scared, or maybe not convinced that it is the way to go.

What it boils down to is the money and the value placed on technology.  I am grateful that I work in a school division that embraces technology and has jumped on the technology band wagon.  I was thrilled to hear that the high school has nearly 20 ipads and uses them in all department areas from phys ed to mathematics, art to ELA.  And then I was SHOCKED to hear that they do not have restricted access to purchasing apps.  A $100 itunes card is placed on to the account, when the money runs out another one is purchased.  The vice principal was supportive of her staff's judgement when it came to purchasing apps.  No team meetings, no needing to justify the value of it.... just blind faith that if the teacher feels it has educational value, then it must.

Let's face it... when do we sit down to surf for apps?  Likely at home on our own time when we have no way of getting a 99 cent purchase okayed!  Or on the fly when we find what we had been looking for and need it for tomorrows lesson!  New apps are being created by the millisecond.  At my school we have had no access to new apps since mid last school year.  The new apps I have are because I have made a list with the resource teacher and when we have a $20 list, she buys a card from her budget and we quickly spend the $20 on our selections.  Not convenient or practical!  I definitely think our tech committee needs to deal with this situation and come up with a plan.

The apps are just a small piece of the money puzzle though.  I am already thinking ahead to how I am going to function in my classroom when term one is over and my turn with the pod is over.  What about the profiles that the students have been working through on Teach Me Grade One?  What about my writing projects in pictello and our saved ibooks?  How do I go from being such a techy class to not?  What about our guided reading centers?  Am I going to miss the pod - you bet .  Is there money for more ipads - I hope so!

Today I spent the day with 2 presenters that were passionate about technology.  Their enthusiasm came through in their presentation and it was exciting to be in a room with people who are as "tech geeky" as me!

Their words of wisdom were "If you want the tech stuff - bug your administration for it and if you work here (the high school) come see me, we'll find a way to get it". Those are the words I want to hear:)

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Apps for Struggling Readers???

Three times in the past week I have had people stop me and ask for apps I would recommend to help their children who are struggling with reading.

I have to be honest I have yet to find a really good app that I like to support reading.  I have MANY great math and spelling apps.   In fact,  more than I could ever use, but when it comes to reading I have not hit the jackpot.

I have come across this list on pinterest and have shared it with the people who have asked me for help.  I can not recommend any of them because honestly I do not know.  If you try any of them or find something that you think hits the reading jackpot - please comment and let me know!


Saturday, October 13, 2012

E - Reading

I  own very few ibooks for my children.  I personally LOVE to read on my iphone.  A new book is only a few clicks away, however, it took awhile for me to make the switch from those beloved paperbacks.  I still feel the need to hold a real book every now and then which is why I spent the summer borrowing real books from the public library.

When it comes to children's literature, I still feel like there is nothing like the real thing.  Those beloved pages looked at over and over again.  I recently read an interesting article on the new blog I began following.  It talked about how enhanced ebooks distract kids from comprehending the narrative details.  Do we get too caught up in all the bells and whistles of the interactive book and lose the meaning of the story?  It also linked to an article about poor sleep habits after reading on an ipad at bedtime.  All very interesting to me and reconfirms my belief in the "real thing".

However I do believe there is a time and place for those lovely interactive books.

Image the beautiful images of this classic on the ipad screen.

iPhone Screenshot 1

Or the interactive sounds in this one.

iPhone Screenshot 1

Happy Reading!